Category Archives: Force Modernization

The State of the State Armaments Program

From the “better late than never” file…

On January 11, Aleksey Nikolskiy published an article on the next GPV for Vedomosti.  He laid out the state of the battle over state armaments program 2018-2025.

What Will They Spend?

According to Nikolskiy, the new GPV will be only half of what Russia’s Defense Ministry wants, if the Finance Ministry gets its way.

The GPV covers ten years, but the Russian government adopts one every five years. So the new program was due to be adopted and implemented last year.

The next GPV was being prepared in 2014-2015.  But with the poor economic forecast, Western sanctions, and the need for import substitution, the Kremlin elected to delay launching the new arms program until the first half of 2017, a former MOD official told Nikolskiy.

The new arms program is also late because industry’s initial promises on import substitution for Western as well as for Ukrainian products turned out to be too rosy, CAST director Ruslan Pukhov tells Nikolskiy.  But, he adds, it’s impossible to drag this out longer because industry needs to know the fiscal parameters of its work in the long-term.

The current program for 2011-2020 was approved in late 2010.  It contained 19.1 trillion rubles for the MOD.  That was more than $630 billion at the exchange rate of the day.  But, according to Nikolskiy, not more than 40 percent of this amount had been spent by the start of 2017.

Forty percent is 7.6 trillion, or roughly 1.3 trillion per year for the first six years of a ten-year program.  Leaving so much backloaded implies that Russian defense industry was unable to absorb and use more money, at least without massive graft and waste. So the new arms program might continue a similar annual rate of investment in acquisition.

Nikolskiy notes that every arms program the Defense Ministry requests is several times more than the Finance Ministry believes it can allocate.  In 2015, the former reportedly reduced its initial request for 2018-2025 from 55 to 30 trillion rubles while the latter was ready to agree to an amount not greater than 12 trillion.

Kommersant’s Ivan Safronov reported that Defense Minister Sergey Shoygu and Finance Minister Anton Siluanov spoke in “elevated tones” during a September 9 Kremlin meeting on the GPV.  With President Vladimir Putin chairing the session, the ministers reportedly argued over the necessity and feasibility of 22 vs. 12 trillion rubles for arms procurement.

This is the customary kabuki.  In 2010, the MOD came in similarly high — 36 trillion. The Finance Ministry responded with 13 trillion. Ultimately, they compromised at a figure closer to the latter’s preference — 19.1 trillion rubles.  In retrospect, it wasn’t surprising given that even Putin expressed his qualms at spending so much. 

What Will They Buy?

According to a defense industry manager who spoke with Nikolskiy, armaments tsar Deputy Defense Minister Borisov already announced the emphasis in the near term will be placed to a greater degree on the purchase of well-assimilated systems – for example, Su-30SM fighters or Improved Kilo-class (proyekt 636) submarines – and on modernized equipment which is significantly cheaper than new.

Meanwhile, the acceptance of fundamentally new types of armaments is passing into the more distant future.  They include important platforms like the T-14 / Armata tank and T-50 / PAK FA fighter, and even some strategic weapons, writes Nikolskiy.

This would represent some retrenchment from Moscow’s ambitions in comparison with what it originally wanted from the current arms program.

Additional Perspective

U.S. defense acquisition is still probably three times the $50 billion or less Russia might spend on an annual basis.  Russian procurement of arms attracts more attention and causes more concern than its volume alone warrants.

What Russia actually receives for the money it spends makes an interesting comparison with China.  Beijing clearly lags Moscow in high-tech weapons, but it seems to get greater industrial bang for its buck when bending metal.

For example, Chinese shipbuilding.  In ten years, China put 22 Type 054A frigates to sea. The Russian Navy received three or four frigates during the same years.  China is set to build its third aircraft carrier.  Russia’s lone Kuznetsov carrier will soon enter the shipyard to begin a three-year (probably longer) modernization effort.

Perhaps China hands will tell us if naval construction is a happy aberration for Beijing or if it enjoys the same kind of productivity in ground and air systems.

Conclusion

Rearmament is something that has gone Moscow’s way in recent years.  It has restored Russia’s image as a formidable power.  Rearming — even over-arming — has created and fueled a siege mentality at home.  That mentality keeps the Russian Federation distant from the Western community of nations, and its people remote from the kinds of socioeconomic demands Westerners place on their political leaders.  So the arms program has been part of Putin’s strategy for that reason if no other.

Moscow will want to maintain the momentum rearmament has generated since 2011.  Too much of a break in funding would slow defense industry, which had difficulty finding traction.

But Russia’s economic situation is harder now than 2010.

Best Guess:  GPV 2018-2025 will be announced with a nominal budget between 15 and 17 trillion rubles.

The Ministry of Finance will still groan at this amount, but will be secretly pleased at having kept arms spending at a reasonable level.

What money is actually disbursed, as we’ve seen, will be less than the full amount as the years go by.

The State of VTA [Addendum]

As if on cue, an anonymous aviation industry source has spilled to Interfaks-AVN on developments in the Il-76MD-90A transport program.  Remarkable timing.  Can you say reflexive control?  But one mustn’t look a gift horse in the mouth.  The author is grateful for all info.

The source says Aviastar-SP plans to complete three of the new transports this year.  It has already finished five, according to him.

Two Il-76MD-90A aircraft have gone to the MOD (the VKS presumably).  Two have gone to Beriev in Taganrog for “reequipping into special designation aircraft.”  AWACS and aerial tankers presumably.  The fifth is with Ilyushin for development and testing.

Interfaks-AVN’s source reports that the 2012 contract for 39 Il-76MD-90A transports is still in effect.

By 2025, Aviastar-SP intends to produce 170 aircraft in the Il-76MD-90A family.  By 2021, it aims to make 18 per year and 21 each year after 2021.  It is hoping for 65 export orders.

If you’re still reading in Ulyanovsk or Moscow, we’d all love to hear anything about plans to replace or produce more An-124 transports.

The State of VTA

News on the Il-76MD-90A program provides an opportunity to look at the state of Russia’s VTA, or Military-Transport Aviation.

il-76md-90a-prototype-prepares-for-takeoff

Il-76MD-90A prototype prepares for takeoff

The Il-76MD-90A is a new aircraft, an updated version of the venerable Il-76 transport produced by the Soviets in large numbers during the 1970s and 1980s.

According to most sources, the VTA is supposed to acquire 39 Il-76MD-90A transports by 2020 [or 2021?].  This may have been slashed to 30, others say.  Manufacturer Aviastar-SP reports it has ten of the aircraft in various stages of assembly.

The new transport was at TsAGI in Moscow recently for static structural testing. Prior to that, it conducted flight tests from the Aviastar-SP production facility at Ulyanovsk-Vostochnyy.

Besides new PS-90 engines, the Il-76MD-90A has an all-glass digital cockpit, new flight controls, navigation, and communication systems.  The airframe and landing gear have been reinforced.  It lifts 60 tons while reportedly consuming less fuel.

The original Il-76 had slightly greater cargo capacity than the U.S. C-141.  It’s critical to the mobility of Russia’s Airborne Troops (VDV) and their air-droppable equipment.  Civilian versions of the Il-76 remain in use worldwide.

At present, VTA may operate about 100 Il-76M or Il-76MD, and perhaps ten An-124 transports.  But the number of operational aircraft could be as low as 60 Il-76 variants and a handful of An-124. 

At the outset of the current GPV in 2011, the air forces hoped to procure 100 or more new and updated heavy transport aircraft.  The current inventory needs complete replacement in the 2020s and early 2030s.  But they have relatively little to show well into 2017.

Together with 39 (or 30?) Il-76MD-90A transports, VTA plans to acquire 30 Il-76MDM aircraft.  It’s a renovated Il-76MD with its original engines but the glass cockpit and other updates from the Il-76MD-90A.

Cooperation with the Antonov design bureau and its production facilities is off the table now that military-industrial ties with Ukraine have been severed. Observers once looked for Russia’s VTA to buy 30-50 An-70 transports and the same number of Il-76MD variants and updates.

They also anticipated that Moscow would buy 20 new An-124 aircraft and modernize quite a few existing ones.  No alternative for replacing the super-heavy transport has been proffered.

The PAK TA (future aircraft system — transport aviation) remains a mirage. Moscow could mobilize Aviastar-SP to renew production of the An-124, but it would require a lot of resources and time, plus the facility will already have its hands full with the Il-76MD-90A, etc.

There is also the question of VTA’s smaller transports which are ancient and in dire need of replacement.  The MOD has settled on procurement of 48 turboprop Il-112V aircraft in GPV 2018-2025 to replace some of its aged An-26 fleet.  This decision came after it abandoned efforts to get Antonov’s An-140.  The Russians reportedly will continue to develop the turbojet Il-214 medium transport despite India’s decision to bow out of the once joint effort.  But there’s little tangible in this program to date.

Postscript on PAK FA

As if on cue, Russian Deputy Defense Minister and arms tsar Yuriy Borisov told journalists on February 2 that production of Russia’s T-50 / PAK FA fifth generation fighter may not begin until after 2018.

“Most likely,” he said, “this will be the next state armaments program, that is 2018-2025,” TASS reported.

Borisov added that the Defense Ministry is not in a hurry.  He said, as long as existing analogues satisfy the armed forces’ requirements, there is no need to spend money to buy expensive new equipment, according to TASS.

“We’ll use it on a trial basis, we’ve bought limited quantities, we’ll see how they work in practice, identify all deficiencies, put in place all changes so when the time comes to buy the models have been developed in practice,” Borisov noted.

What satisfies the requirements at this point is the procurement of 12 MiG-29SMT, two Su-30M2, 17 Su-30SM, and 12 Su-35S fighters, or 43 fighters in all, in 2016.  But, after peaking in 2014, Moscow’s acquisition of combat aircraft declined some in 2015 and then fell more sharply in 2016, according to bmpd.

Cold Water on PAK FA

ODK General Director Aleksandr Artyukhov has dampened the prospects for Russia’s developmental fifth generation fighter aircraft, the T-50 or PAK FA.  Friday in Lukhovitsy at the presentation of the MiG-35, Artyukhov told RIA Novosti that R&D on PAK FA’s “second phase” engine won’t be complete until 2020.

t-50-pak-fa-photo-ria-novosti-aleksandr-vilf

T-50 / PAK FA (photo: RIA Novosti / Aleksandr Vilf)

This contrasts with the more hopeful announcement late last year from Sukhoy aircraft plant KnAAZ when the “second phase” engine or “item 30” commenced stand tests.

ODK’s Artyukhov told the media that the plan is to begin flight tests of the “second phase” engine this year.

Existing prototypes fly with the first phase or “item 117S” engine (AL-41F1S). However, “item 30” advertises reduced infrared signature, increased thrust, supercruise, improved fuel efficiency, and lower life-cycle costs.

Artyukhov’s predecessor said more than two years ago that a PAK FA with a “second phase” engine would not fly until 2017.  ODK once hoped this would happen in 2015, but OAK’s former chief Mikhail Pogosyan said possibly not even before 2019.

But even with a tested “item 30” engine, it will be a challenge to integrate and test it fully this year.  So the first PAK FA fighters to reach the Russian Aerospace Forces (VKS) will probably have “item 117S” engines.

As the PAK FA’s engine has slipped, so has the aircraft itself.

The VKS officially hopes to accept its newest fighter in 2017, and take delivery of five in late 2017 or 2018.  It looks toward a total buy of 55 PAK FA.

However, in mid-2015, Deputy Defense Minister Yuriy Borisov said the military would procure one squadron of 12 PAK FA.  He didn’t commit to more.  Borisov said Russia would buy fewer PAK FA than planned because the 4++ generation Su-35 is superior to new foreign fighters in many respects.

Il-112V Light Transport in Next Armaments Program

The Voronezh Aircraft Plant is assembling the first prototype of the Il-112V light transport aircraft, according to the Ilyushin design bureau.  Russian Deputy Defence Minister and procurement tsar Yuriy Borisov has indicated that the Russian military will buy 48 of them in the state armaments program for 2018-2025, expected to be approved by mid-2017.

first-il-112v-fuselage-assembled-photo-www-ilyushin-org

First Il-112V Fuselage Assembled (photo: http://www.ilyushin.org)

The first Il-112V airframe should be complete by the end of January when ground testing is to begin.  Flight tests could start this summer followed soon thereafter by state acceptance testing, Borisov told Gazeta.ru’s Mikhail Khodarenok.  The Voronezh plant has also begun assembly of a second Il-112V.

The new transport will take the place of aging Antonov An-26 / Curl aircraft.  The Russian military still operates about 100 of the venerable transports.  More than 1,100 were produced between 1969 and 1986.

Series production of the Il-112V is supposed to start in 2019 with a rate of 12 aircraft per year.  The production run has been pared back to 48 from the original target of 62 transports.

Funding for Il-112V development was cut in 2010 when former defense minister Anatoliy Serdyukov opted to buy modified An-140 transports from Ukraine.  But the Russian light transport program was revived in 2013.  It received special impetus after Kyiv halted military-technical cooperation with Moscow in early 2014.

The Il-112V depends on successful production of TV7-117ST turbofan engines by Russian manufacturer Klimov.  The first two are scheduled for delivery and installation on the prototype airframe in February.  The Klimov engines will substitute for ones that Moscow used to import from Ukraine’s Motor Sich. However, they are not equal to Ukrainian engines in several respects including horsepower, service ceiling, and reliability, according to Khodarenok’s aviation sector sources.

The new Russian transport is designed for a takeoff weight of 21 tons with a maximum useful load of five tons.  It will carry 3.5 tons to a range of 2,400 km.

artists-concept-of-il-112v

Artist’s Concept of Il-112V

According to a recent report in Izvestiya, the Central Aerodynamic Institute (TsAGI or ЦАГИ) has raised the prospect of developing a different Russian light transport that could be rapidly converted between passenger and cargo variants.

Outside Russia, there are some 600 An-26 transports still operating, but they are at the end of the service lives and need replacement.  This provides a ready market for Ilyushin’s new light transport, but it already faces stiff competition from established products like the Airbus CASA C-295 and Alenia C-27J Spartan.

The Il-112V is an increasingly critical requirement given the obsolescence of Russia’s existing light transport inventory.  The urgency of the program is further underscored by Russia’s apparent difficulties in producing components to assemble the Ukrainian-designed An-140.

What They Got

reloading-iskander-m-photo-tass-yuriy-smityuk

Reloading Iskander-M (photo: TASS / Yuriy Smityuk)

Time to review what the Russian Armed Forces say they got during the last year. One can’t confirm what weapons and equipment were delivered, so Russian claims have to suffice.

This information appeared in Sergey Shoygu’s speech to the MOD Collegium on December 22 found here.  TASS recapped the speech later that day. And Krasnaya zvezda dutifully recounted some of it on December 27.

Overall, Defense Minister Shoygu reported that state defense order (GOZ) deliveries increased five percent over 2015.

Beyond what the Russian military procured, Shoygu had interesting remarks on other issues.  They are grouped more coherently below than in the original, to preserve the reader’s patience.

Modernization, Serviceability, and Manning

Shoygu announced that Russia’s “combat possibilities” increased 14 percent in 2016. From what to what, he didn’t say.  “Combat possibilities” is a Russian measure of how forces are equipped, divided by other key factors like manning, readiness, training, and morale.

Service modernization percentages are:

  • Navy up to 47 percent.
  • Aerospace Forces (VKS) up to 66 percent.
  • Ground Troops — 42 percent.
  • Airborne Troops — 47 percent.
  • RVSN — 51 percent.

(N.B.  Percentages reported at the end of 2015 were 39, 52, 35, 41, and 51 respectively.)

Arms and equipment in “permanent readiness” units are 58 percent modern, according to the defense minister.  The in-service rate of equipment in these units is 94 percent (up 5 percent from 2015).

Serviceability of VKS aircraft is 62 percent.

According to Shoygu, the armed forces are manned at 93 percent of their authorized strength, and 384,000 contractees are in the ranks.  The NCO ranks are fully professional for the first time.  Apparently, the military no longer relies on conscripts hastily turned into sergeants.

Force Structure Changes

New equipment allowed for force structure expansion in the Ground and Airborne Troops. According to TASS, Shoygu reported that nine new formations, including four motorized rifle and one tank division, appeared in the former.  In the latter, three reconnaissance battalions, six tank companies, and EW and UAV companies were established.

Navy

In 2016, the Russian Navy received 24 ships and support vessels, and the Proyekt 636.3 diesel-electric submarines Velikiy Novgorod and Kolpino for the Black Sea Fleet.  The surface vessels included a Proyekt 22870 rescue ship, a Proyekt 19920 hydrographic ship, Proyekt 11356 frigates Admiral Grigorovich and Admiral Essen, and Proyekt 12700 mine countermeasures ship Aleksandr Obukhov.

The Navy acquired 100 Kalibr (SS-N-27 / Sizzler) and Oniks (SS-N-26 / Strobile) cruise missiles.  These missiles are carried on new Proyekt 636.3 subs and Proyekt 11356 frigates.

In early December, logistics chief Army General Dmitriy Bulgakov said 19 of the 24 ships delivered were auxiliaries.  And Admiral Essen fouled its screws while mooring before departing for its Black Sea homeport.  The third Proyekt 11356 Admiral Makarov did not reach the fleet, nor did the first Proyekt 22350 Admiral Gorshkov frigate, or the initial Proyekt 11711 LSD Ivan Gren. Another less than impressive year of naval construction.

Aerospace Forces

The air forces received:

  • 139 aircraft, including Su-35S fighters and ten Yak-130 trainers.  Eight Su-30SM fighters went to Crimea, two to Rostov-na-Donu, and others to the Northern and Baltic Fleet.
  • Unspecified numbers of new Mi-28N, Ka-52, Mi-35M, Mi-26, Mi-8AMTSh-VA, and Mi-8MTV-5 helicopters.
  • Four regimental sets of S-400 SAMs, 25 Pantsir-S gun-missile systems, and 74 radars.
  • Two modernized Tu-160M and two modernized Tu-95MS strategic bombers.

Ground Troops

The Ground Troops reportedly received 2,930 new or modernized systems allowing for two missile brigades, two SAM brigades and two SAM regiments, one Spetsnaz brigade, 12 motorized rifle and tank battalions, and three artillery battalions to be reequipped.

Besides two brigade sets of Iskander-M, they obtained 60 Tornado-G MRLs, 70 modernized Grad-M MRLs, and 20 Msta-SM SP howitzers.  They acquired 22,000 communications systems bringing that equipment to 49 percent modern. More than 100 BTR-82AM joined Western MD forces.  They also received ten new EW systems.

eleron-3sv-uav-package-for-ground-troops

Eleron-3SV UAV package for Ground Troops

The armed forces procured 105 systems with 260 UAVs.  These included more than ten new Orlan-10 and Eleron-3 UAVs.  They formed 36 units and subunits. The Russian military now operates 600 systems with 2,000 UAVs, compared with only 180 old systems in 2011.

Airborne Troops

The Russian airborne got 188 new or modernized vehicles, including 60 BMD-4M and BTR-MDM, 35 BTR-82A, 40 modernized BREM-D, 2S9-1M SP mortars, and more than 6,000 D-10 and Arbalet-2 parachutes.

At his final MOD teleconference of the year, the defense minister said 764 armored vehicles and 88 artillery systems of all types were acquired in 2016.

rs-24-yars-icbm

RS-24 Yars ICBM

RVSN

Russia’s strategic missile troops placed four RS-24 Yars (SS-27 Mod 2 or SS-29?) ICBM regiments on combat duty in 2016, according to Shoygu.  RVSN Commander General-Colonel Karakayev earlier said 23 Yars mobile and silo-based missiles were put into service.

The defense minister said the armed forces got a total of 41 new (intercontinental-range) ballistic missiles (presumably both land- and sea-launched), bringing Russia’s strategic nuclear triad to 60 percent modern.

The balance — 18 missiles — could be Bulava SLBMs.  They might be for Borey-class SSBN hull four Knyaz Vladimir, along with a couple spares for practice launches.

 Syria

Regarding use of the Syrian war as a proving ground, Shoygu said:

“162 types of modern and modernized arms were tested in the course of combat operations in Syria and showed high effectiveness.  They include the newest Su-30SM and Su-34 aircraft, and Mi-28N and Ka-52 helicopters.  Precision munitions and sea-based cruise missiles employed in combat conditions for the first time confirmed their tactical characteristics.”

Deficiencies were revealed which did not appear in the course of range testing.  The purchase of 10 types of arms has been stopped until [deficiencies] are eliminated.  As a result, we have significantly increased the quality of equipment that guarantees the reliability of its employment in battle.”

P.S.  TASS added that, in 2016, the Southern MD got 350 pieces of armor, other vehicles, missiles, artillery, communications, EW, engineering, and special equipment items. Crimea in particular was reinforced with the S-400, Pantsir-S, Su-30SM, and Bastion (SSC-5 / Stooge) coastal missile launchers, which fire Oniks (SS-N-26 / Strobile) cruise missiles.